Sam Fisher returns with his cool night vision goggles.
Sam Fisher is back and once again has got himself caught up in a Tom Clancy styled terrorist plot. Along with the team at the newly formed Fourth Echelon, Sam will have to stealth and shoot his way through all manner of bad guys just to make sure that the world is safe. Someone’s gotta do it…
The story, for what its worth, is typical terrorist fare, the likes that we have experienced in other Tom Clancy games and TV shows like 24, for that matter. After a brutal attack on an airforce base, which Sam is directly involved in, a terrorist group known as The Engineers threaten one attack each week until all US military forces are pulled back to the United States. So, taking to the air in their brand new home away from home base of operations, Fourth Echelon are formed, a black ops group created specifically to combat this threat.
The group is made up of a stereotypical selection of characters, including old friend Anna Grimsdottir. Also to back up Sam are the tough as nails spec ops Briggs and the hacking computer whiz Charlie. Missions are taken from this flying HQ, and Sam can even wander around and talk to the other characters to pick up some bonus missions, if the player wishes.
So the story and the characters are not exactly awe-inspiring. Even Sam feels like he has lost his edge, but then he has been doing this for a while. However, the excellent gameplay more than makes up for a dishwater weak story and stereotyped characters, thankfully.
Gameplay has taken a step back from Sam Fisher’s last outing to offer more choice in the way a player approaches their mission. Stealth is now a much more viable option for the sneakier player. Gun blazing action is also possible for the shoot first and ask questions later type, but the reality for most players will be a mixture of the two for most of the missions.
Some missions, however, will force the player into a specific role, a specific kind of playing, and it is these missions where the choice of how to approach a problem is taken away that will be the weak points for certain types of pigeon-holed players.
However a player decides to take on a mission, Sam’s finely honed skills and superior equipment will make it easier. Mark-and-execute returns, giving the player the chance to mark off their enemies and then take them out with some swift headshots in a very impressive manner. And the kit that Sam can optionally take into the field will make any player feel like a superspy, with a wide range of gadgetry to inspire stealth, or just to wipe out large numbers of enemy soldiers.
The default difficulty of the game, combined with the ability to mark your enemies and then take them out in quick succession, is not especially hard to work through. However, there are higher difficulties for the more accomplished player, and trying to get through a mission using only stealth is a challenge on many missions simply because the game tends to make the alternate routes hard and surround the player in enemies.
Along with the main missions and side missions that can be picked up from the HQ, certain of which can be played in either online or offline co-op, there is the hugely entertaining Spies Vs. Mercs multiplayer mode. This competitive experience, which pits Sam Fisher wannabes with a third-person view against first-person, heavily armed mercenaries, is one of the best multiplayer modes around and great fun to play. Different modes are available in Spies Vs. Mercs, from a simple deathmatch to the more involved King of the Hill type matches, offering a nice variety to the fast-paced action.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist is a cinematic action game that offers an exhilarating Sam Fisher experience, blending the old and the new. The option for a more old-school stealth approach is available, but the player will have to fight against the games’ leaning towards action to find it. Taken as its own game, Blacklist is brilliant fun with plenty to do. Compared with previous Splinter Cell games, it is one of the best. Either way, Splinter Cell: Blacklist is worth adding to your game library.